Elizabeth Rhodes

Uber Regulations Change, But At What Cost?

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Today Mayor Sylvester Turner revealed at a press conference that the City of Houston and Uber have reached an agreement to keep the transportation company operating in the city at least through the upcoming Super Bowl.


While Turner has had issues with Uber and its policies on background checks, even going so far as to require Transportation Network Company (TNC) licenses which includes fingerprint background checks for all drivers operating within the City of Houston, the new agreement reached with the company indicates that Turner may be feeling the pressure of the company’s threats to cease operations in the city due to the impending Super Bowl. As part of the agreement, drug screenings and physicals will no longer be required for drivers to operate.


That said, currently all taxi drivers are required by law to undergo fingerprint background checks, drug screenings and physicals, indicating that the playing field isn’t quite level. Other changes include the reduction of Uber licensing costs from $200 to $70, as well as the fact that drivers can now apply to the company and be on the road picking up riders in the same day. Essentially, it’s easier to be an Uber driver in Houston than ever — but is that safe?


In May, Uber had threatened to leave the city due to the requirement of fingerprint background checks and asserted that changes to the regulations were necessary for them to remain in Houston. While the fingerprint requirement remains, it is difficult to imagine that a driver is able to undergo an extensive background check with the new licensing process being reduced to only 20 minutes. It is illegal for a driver to operate within the City of Houston without the required fingerprint background check, although this adjustment doesn’t seem to allow for that given the extremely brief period required for a driver to drive, which is still legal without a fingerprint background check in the areas outside of Houston city limits.


Essentially, it seems that the city is turning a blind eye to drivers that have not undergone the required background check, as well as the previously required drug screenings and physicals, simply to create more drivers prior to the Super Bowl. It would seem that although Turner’s prior regulations on Uber were stricter than most cities, he seems to be backtracking on safety requirements in order to fulfill the high demand expected in February. It’s understandable that Turner longs to effectively utilize the opportunity presented by hosting the Super Bowl, however at what cost to riders’ safety? And why does Uber exist under different regulations than the taxi cab companies that have existed for decades longer?


These are the questions that Houstonians should be asking themselves, and so should Mayor Turner.

  • Michael Oldenburg

    Uber is not the problem.
    Corrupt politicians are.

  • Joe L. Jordan

    UBER’s lobbyists have wasted no time putting their foot on the throat of Mayor Turner
    and spitting on Houston City Council, and like a squawling two year old, UBER got its way and completely buffaloed our lackluster politicians. It would be ludicrous and preposterous to presume
    that UBER “Might” pull out of Houston right before the Super Bowl. Even if they did, We had a Super Bowl here in Houston a few years ago and Taxis and Limos moved everybody
    just fine. What is going on here is UBER and their sugar daddy backer Goldman Sachs
    are strong-arming cities and states all across the nation to let UBER run hog wild with little or no regulation or taxation whatsoever. Uber chumps the drivers up to 35% of the fare
    and it is estimated that UBER is short-changing the City of Houston a million a month on
    fees and taxes. In the meantime, it has been proven hundreds of times that UBER’s
    driver background checks are totally worthless and there are thousands of cases of
    rape, stalking, home invasions, and even one mass murder where the UBER driver said “The UBER phone told me to go kill five people”. Known felons, child pornographers,
    DUIs, undocumented illegal aliens, drug dealers, gang members, terrorists (One planning to blow up the Galleria and Sharpstown Malls) and other unsavory dregs of society of the worst imaginable order all easily became “Approved” as UBER drivers.The City of Houston “Had” a safe system for 80 years of requiring finger prints, drug tests and physicals of all Taxi, Limo and Bus Drivers. That was before
    UBER Lobbyists carrying grocery sacks full of hundred dollar bills started roaming the
    hallways of City Hall and were able to convince the previous and current mayor and all
    council members to start “Seeing things UBER’s way”. When (Not if) a considerable
    number of women get raped going to or coming from the Superbowl and the NFL and the City of Houston get their tails sued off, maybe the citizenry will wake up and realize
    that the UBER business model is based on dishonesty and deceit and the public officials elected to provide for the common good and public safety, in their greed for lining their own pockets aided and abetted them. As a recent candidate for office just said, repeatedly,
    “The system is rigged and it’s time to drain the swamp”. Houston is certainly no exception.